Look at the album cover. Look at it. A vaguely psychedelic blonde with an afro that has hearts rising in patterns while she coyly looks at someone off-cover. And why are there three coffee cups when she's the only one? And why are there musical notes coming out of that one cup? This is the sort of album you buy despite knowing nothing about the music contained within, no questions asked. Thankfully, this is some of the coolest bring-you-to-your-knees female-voiced folk rock from 1969 that wasn't recorded in 1969.
Swedish-born but London-based Kristina Bill cuts 12 tracks for your listening pleasure. Flaming Heart is the third in her Heart series, which explores themes of love, loss, and longing. She's been compared to Kate Bush, Beth Gibbons (Portishead) and Annie Lennox, which are all well and good, but her voice reminds me more of prog-rock queens Catherine Ribeiro and Anna Meek (Catapilla). She even gets into some vocal jazz territory every now and then. It's tough, even brutish, but carries with it a gentle sexuality as well. On "I Like to Swing," she proclaims, over a baroque horn arrangement, that she likes them " young, even a little dumb/I like them rude, full of tattoos/I like some size, oh baby, that's real nice." If that doesn't get your loins heated then wait until she hits glass-cracking notes when she delivers the track's eponymous line.
But the music isn't as dangerous as the first couple tracks would appear. "Raindrops" is a flute-focused, delicately arranged number that sounds like it could be a bonus track on the legendary Parallelograms album. "Kom," sung partly in Swedish, uses the harp, cello, and acoustic guitar to create poetry that, like frost on the window, melts as soon as Bill lets loose her warm vocals.
Bill, besides writing all songs but one on here, also plays the guitar and piano AND helped program this wondrous work. She is backed by several talented musicians who help her weave her tales through the cloth of ethereal folk music. Celloist Jonathan Williams deserves special mention, as his mournful tones give Bill the leverage her voice needs to launch her music into the next big thing.
It’s a gorgeous and dazzling album. Forget Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes or whoever, ladies like Kristina Bill are the women people need to be paying attention to.
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